You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.
Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
1 Kings 8:41-43
“To the foreigners, likewise, who are not of your people Israel, but who come from a distant land for the sake of your name (since people will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm), when they come and pray toward this house, listen in heaven, the place of your enthronement. Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may revere you as do your people Israel, and may know that your name has been invoked upon this house that I have built.”
Sayid and his family lived in the city of Daara before the Syrian war. Sayid managed his small retail store during the day and spent his afternoons playing with his young children. Two of Sayid’s daughters were born with a rare disorder and he worked hard to provide them with the best care.
In March 2011, Daara erupted in protest after the Syrian government arrested and tortured several local teenagers. The country collapsed within one year and the war was raging by 2013. With the civilian death toll at more than 80,000, Sayid and his family were forced to flee Syria. He and his wife carried their sick daughters on their backs while leading their other children across the desert.
The family was relieved when they finally arrived at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jordan. The camp was able to provide the medical care Sayid’s two daughters desperately needed. Unfortunately, Sayid’s eldest daughter died while in the camp in 2015.
When a UN worker learned that Sayid’s other daughter was also at risk, he brought Sayid’s case to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for refugee resettlement. The family’s case was expedited and they arrive in the U.S.
Catholic Charities in Pennsylvania processed the family’s case and helped them obtain housing, food, and other basic needs. When Sayid reflects on his family’s journey, he says “Christians helped me, Jews helped me, Muslims helped me.” He is grateful to be in the United States and, as he’s always done, continues to look for ways to provide the best care possible for his daughter and all his children.
- Refugees do not want to relocate from their homelands. Refugees are resettled because they have been driven from their country community and home. Think about the roles that country community and home play in your life. Now imagine a catastrophic event threatens to destroy it all and you are forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on your back. You don’t know whether you’ll ever return to the land in which you grew up. How do you feel? How would you like others to treat you?
- Less than 1 percent of the world’s population (the most vulnerable refugees) are referred for resettlement to a third country. This decision is made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and refugees do not select the country into which they are resettled. The Catholic Church resettles roughly a quarter of all refugees admitted to the United States. What would you hope to find in a new country and community if you and your family had to be resettled? If you had met your fellow parishioners under these circumstances, how would you expect them to react?
No one is a stranger to you
and no one is ever far from your loving care.
In your kindness watch over refugees and asylum seekers,
those separated from their loved ones, those who are lost,
and those who have been exiled from their homes.
Bring them safely to the place where they long to be,
and help us always to show your kindness to strangers and those in need.
Social Justice Resource Center (Social Justice Resource Center)
Call to Action
Encourage your parish to become part of USCCB’s Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees program. The POWR program provides strategies for volunteers to help refugees adjust to life in the United States.
Refugees can apply for permanent residency within a year, and apply for citizenship five years later. Help refugees prepare for the process by signing up for this campaign, which delivers helpful information via text messages.
Use this resource to learn about the process refugees must go through when being resettled.
Use the strategies within this toolkit to counter harmful narratives about refugees.